Vitus Bering (1681 – 1742)
Vitus Jonassen Bering was a Danish navigator and notable explorer. When he was still a young man, he left for the sea, and spent most of his life exploring. He joined the Russian Navy in 1703,
Bering distinguished himself during Russia's war with Sweden, and when it concluded, he was employed by Czar Peter the Great to lead an expedition and explore the eastern-most limits of the north coast of Asia. At that time, much of the world was uncharted, and it was not known whether Asia and America were connected or separate land masses. Bering left St. Petersburg on February 5, 1725 leading an expedition that traveled across Siberia and set up a base in Kamchatka. From there, the expedition constructed ships and prepared for sea. In 1728, he sailed through the strait that now bears his name, proving that America and Asia were separate continents. The expedition returned to St. Petersburg in 1730.
Russia commissioned Bering to lead another expedition, an enormous undertaking that became known as The Great Northern Expedition. It is said that ten thousand men took part in the quest to map the Russian-Siberian coast, and the western coast of America, as far south as Mexico. It wasn't until 1740 that Bering reached Kamchatka, having spent the first years of the journey exploring northern Siberia. The 1733 expedition eventually spanned a decade. Bering sighted the volcano Mount Saint Elias in 1741, and sailed past Kodiak Island. Violent Arctic storms and crew sickness prevented Bering from completing his explorations. His ship, the Saint Peter, was wrecked on a desolate island. Bering died of scurvy on the island that now bears his name in December,1741.